The study examined if a thematically designed online introductory psychology course set in a cooperative and collaborative learning environment led to deeper learning. Using the revised two-factor Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F; Biggs, Kember & Leung, 2001), the study predicted peer and teacher guided asynchronous dialogue would lead to increasing students' self-perceptions of deeper learning approaches (DA) and higher levels of thinking. Individual thinking style (ITS; Sternberg & Wagner, 1992) was presumed to be an important mediator on both student pre- and post-DA scores. It was also hypothesized that thinking styles would influence student perceptions towards participating in a learning community, as measured by the Classroom Community Scale (CCS; Rovai, 2002). Contrary to the hypotheses, thinking styles didn't predict either pre- or post DA nor end of semester CCS scores. The two main hypotheses, premised on Vygotsky's theory of social constructivism and post Vygotskian thinking on conceptual learning, demonstrated mixed results. The expected increase in self perceptions of deep learning and a predictive relationship between DA and CCS to reflect this contextualized learning were not found. While post DA scores weren't significantly correlated with CCS, CCS was correlated with students' perceptions of which types of discussions guided their learning. Qualitative evidence from the online dialogue demonstrated deeper, conceptual and applied understanding than students' self-reports. What requires further study is whether students develop an explicit metacognitive understanding of how cooperative discussions aren't an added burden, but rather, a means of constructing a deeper meaning and approach to learning.
RESEARCH STUDY: CLASS DESIGN, MATERIALS AND METHODS
HYPOTHESES AND FINDINGS
QUALITATIVE DATA ON HIGHER LEVEL THINKING